Most children go through a phase of being fussy eaters. It normally starts around the age of 12 months when they are trying to feed themselves. Often they are trying to assert themselves and are testing the parents but it can also be a result of the limited food choices on offer. So try not to get frustrated when he suddenly refuses a food that up to now has been a favourite. Your toddler may not like the texture, colour, or taste of some foods. This may be why he will often claim to dislike a food he has never even tried. Try to be patient and keep calm, even if you feel frustrated. They usually grow out of this phase, experiment with new recipes.
Have mealtimes together as a family, preferably around the same time every evening.
Show your child that meals are important and that they are family and social occasions.
Toddlers learn how to eat by copying their parents, siblings and other children.
Have a routine for mealtime, younger children can help set the table, and older children can help pour the water or milk.
Let your child help choose the meal for one day of the week, encourage the child to help tidy up after the meal. Offer him a meal that includes at least one thing that you know he likes, rather than asking him what he wants to eat. If you feel your toddler is more likely to eat if he has chosen his own meal, let him pick from a small selection of healthy foods.
Keep mealtimes to a set time, most toddlers eat what they are going to eat in the first 20 minutes. Let them take the time to chew and eat their food properly, don’t let them feel rushed.
Offer just one new food at a time. Give him a taste before putting a whole serving on his plate. Just a bite is enough. This way he won’t feel overwhelmed, and it won’t seem like a waste of food to you. Keep in mind that your toddler may need to see a new food between 8 and 12 times before he’s willing to try it. When you do offer a new food, simply place it on the dinner table with everything else. Don’t make a big fuss about it. Include fruit and vegetables with each meal.
If you have scheduled mealtime and encourage this for a minimum of 7 days this will help the child establish good eating habits.
Some toddlers have little appetite at mealtimes. This is because they’ve taken in too many calories from sweetened drinks and milk during the day. Only offer between 350ml and 500ml of milk a day, in a cup, not a bottle. Give your toddler water to drink between meals. Give less snacks during the day – if they are hungry give pieces of fruit, oatcakes or raw vegetables.
Give your toddler plenty of attention when he’s eating well. If you can find the strength, don’t give him any attention at all when he’s refusing to eat. Talk to your toddler during meals, lots of eye contact, no TV on in the Kitchen while eating. However worried you may feel, try not to convey your fears to your toddler. If you’re constantly hovering over him at mealtimes, he’s likely to become even more resistant to eating. Give lots of praise and encouragement.
Invite their friends around for tea, let them prepare their own food – fun things – pancakes, homemade pizzas, mini sandwiches, fairy cakes, helping to stir…and remember to have fun!
Take the children grocery shopping, let them have their own shopping list.
Let them choose the fruit and vegetables. Make sure your child knows all the different fruit and vegetables. Educate your child on how to grow their own vegetables and fruits e.g.: tomatoes or strawberries.
Some parents worry that their child is not getting enough nutrition – always start the day with a good breakfast, some fruit and a glass of milk. To ensure their body is getting enough Calcium for their growing bones give half a pint of milk each day. A vitamin supplement specially designed for toddlers may be useful if your toddler is a fussy eater. It should contain vitamins A, C and D. Ask your pharmacist or your health visitor for advice.
If you’re at all worried about your child’s fussy eating, see your GP or health visitor they can weigh and measure your toddler to check that he is growing well, and reassure you.
Remember… Children need 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.